Tonya Hart had a big smile on her face as she convened the Madison Street Merchants (M2) meeting on Dec. 13 in Team Blonde’s downstairs work room.

The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate how well their yearlong $50,000 marketing campaign was doing after nine months. She anticipated hearing good news from the 20 merchants who assembled, and that’s what she got.

Connie Brown from Brown Cow reported a 42 percent increase in business. Others raved about the influx of new business that they believe is directly linked to the marketing campaign.

“We’re riding a wave,” Cec Hardacker from Two Fish Art Glass said.

About one-fourth of the $52,260 that was budgeted is being spent on advertising in local newspapers. Close to 40 percent is going to ads in regional print media like the Chicago Tribune, about 20 percent to radio ads, $6,000 to McLeod Smith Graphics and the rest to T-shirts, bumper stickers and brochures.

Many M2 merchants track their customer base by asking how they found out about their stores and what motivated them to come. As each merchant reported, it became apparent that different kinds of advertising benefits different businesses.

For example, Gallery Etcetera and Two Fish both discovered that ads in the Home and Garden section of the Tribune bring in customers, while store owners at Santana, Moss, Team Blonde, and Guillen Images said they benefit from advertising in Chicago Magazine. The Brown Cow parlor credited much of its business to ads in Chicago Parent magazine.

Chicago Parent and the Forest Park Review are published by the Wednesday Journal, Inc.

Some businesses reported that they could not discern any increased customer traffic due to any of the ads in the cooperative marketing campaign. Trage Brothers for example, said sales of their high end entertainment centers did not seem to change.

Augie Alexy of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore said niche businesses like his have to find ways to reach very specific, limited segments of the market, in his case older people.

Nevertheless, Alexy and Katherine Trage are both in favor of continuing with the program, because merchants have bought into the philosophy that what is good for the whole is good for the parts.

“The key to this group is cross-selling,” Jayne Ertel of Team Blonde said. “It’s a spill over effect, a synergy.”

Kathleen Hanrahan, assistant director of Forest Park Main Street, said the M2 campaign is also beneficial because it ultimately saves money. Buy pooling their resources, business owners have a bigger bargaining chip and can get better deals on advertising packages.

Hanrahan’s organization contributed to the $52,000 campaign.

“Really, we believe in their approach,” Hanrahan said.

At the December meeting a tentative consensus was reached that next year’s campaign should focus on advertising in the Tribune, Chicago Magazine and revamping M2’s brochure. Ultimately, one of Hardacker’s goals is to get on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Todd and Holland Tea Merchants was featured on NBC’s Today Show in December when a producer for the program became enamored with the store’s catalogue.